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Chryss Yost (October-November)

-Poems by Chryss Yost

  Poems by Chryss Yost
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Poems by Chryss Yost




The sycamore calendar starts in November,

not with the buds but the building of buds

deep in the sap, with branches shorn and bare

bark ready to warm quick in short days, mud-

mulch rich with leaves that gulped up sun.


The leaves, done with their work, released their hold

to pattern the canopy’s shadow with gold.

The trees, like I want to be, steadied by the year

they leave behind, letting the dead wood drop.

Hear how summer crunches when we walk on it.




I shaped a stack of sticks into a bowl—

sticks I should have carried with my beak

or scaled four‐toed feet. It was the best I could build.

My fingers are all flutter and no feather,

my legs truncheons, useless for perching.


Yet, who is blessed more than the nest‐maker?

To welcome every future—stork or carrion bird,

sparrow or eagle. Cupping the pregnant eggs

whatever secret song or shriek they’re hiding.

This is love: awkward circular wanting,


The Compulsion to Map


Though wrong, the atlas will outlast us.

While the lines define the gone Bombay

and Persia nuzzles the Khazar Sea,

this map insists the vanished

still exist, known by fading names.

It was true, but isn’t, snapshot of a fact

evaporating. Constantinople licking Marmara,

speaking Turkish, Farsi, Greek.


No exception, the map of your own tongue—

regions once labeled savory, sour, tart

melt away and shift like any myth:

bitterness that lurks deep in the throat

salted like the edges of the sea,

tongue that flavors the voice,

sweetness that looses the jaw,

words that entered the world

singing their own names.




The wall of the shell yields

to the beak of the chick

or jaws of the fox

or edge of the cast-iron pan.

Abundance of breakfasts,

the world casts platters and nests.


The cage that captures

has a latch that lifts

and releases.


The egg cracked

before the chick can sing,

before the down barbs

into feathers and flight,

even then, envy of wings


The insect in its egg

the egg in the nest

and the hive humming

with want and birth.


Time pries open

all its seals.


Old Habits


I needed to renounce familiar things,

I wasn’t going away, I thought, but towards.

Now, pulled out of black waters,

wet towels draped across my back,

my old home will not hold me anymore.


Who can teach a caterpillar joy

when, comfortable with creeping, she must fly?

Craving leaves, she finds her teeth are gone

and though her life has been a holding on

she no longer feels steady on her branch.

When does she forget her other parts—

the wrapping-paper wings around

her hungry, crawling heart.


Descanso, California


The rich, black humus, airborne, glimmers gold,

gray granite boulders softly wrapped in moss

beneath the dusty light of oaks as old

as California. Creeks just right to cross

with one wide leap and lined with cottonwood,

river stone chimneys, an abandoned bridge

which finally lost its lumber in the flood.

Manzanitas, red beneath the ridge,

the muted clop of horses down the street

melts the whispered rasp of raking leaves

filtered slowly through the mountain heat

beneath the stellar blue of make-believes:

          descansar, to rest within this summer spell

          wrapped in a heritage of chaparral.


Snake in Autumn


Snake, you hid your

slither, still as a stick

until we hit the criss-

cross of broken sun

and oak-dark tarmac.


We left you writhing

like a bullwhip, snap

after snap on the black

as the road broke

to the left and then

I kept thinking

Go back.


State Rock


The odd way it's pronounced: Sir

Pentinite, as if a knightly penitant,

both regal and humble in its veined

grey weight. Words that change

its snake nature as it winds through

our vineyards, changing dust to wine,

the pure sand fecund with its tongue.


Serpentinite, cracking through the crust

that separates the deep sea from its bed,

unwilling to stay down. Riding the edge

of the cleaving, lifted by the ridges

that birth the Sierra Madre, making

paths for Cabrillo and Serra,

their horses and holy ambition.


To craft California with this hard

cracked beauty, how can we not bow?




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